Sunday, October 25, 2009

Classroom Culture

As all teachers know, every year you have a different group of children and a different feel to the classroom. There are different people, of course, in your environment, and that makes all the difference. You are teaching similar content, the classroom itself is somewhat the same, you probably have many of the same books, desks, learning materials, standards to achieve, and a similar schedule to adhere to. But, luckily, we get to do our job differently every year. That is one of the exciting things about teaching - even if you teach the same grade year after year.

As the "leader" of the group, a teacher does have some say (at least we try) in the development of the culture of the classroom. This year I have been observing some of the very interesting developments in the culture of my second grade classroom that I find fascinating because the children are creating some of this culture themselves by making the most of the structures that have been set up in this particular learning environment. Here are two examples:

A few weeks ago a child brought in a rock from home. During the busy morning as the children were arriving, the child showed me the rock. I commented on the rock as I was getting the day organized. He asked me if he should put it on the display table. I quickly said yes as I attended to the other children. After a few minutes (processing, processing), I stopped and thought, "Do we have a display table?" I then realized that on the first day of school a child brought in some things from her summer vacation. We put them on a metal stand that I use to store science materials. Without my paying much attention to it, the stand gradually became a display table for all kinds of interesting items the children wanted to share with the class: books, toys, rocks, shells, awards, Halloween decorations. Sometimes I don't know who put the items there - they just "appear" there. And that seems to satisfy the need of the children to share their things without having them become a distraction. And, the other children respect the items and leave them alone.

This is the first year our four Macbooks available at the very beginning of the year for the students to use in the classroom. The children are already becoming comfortable using the computers and will even ask for "my mac" when they have some work to do. But it still surprised me when I was talking with another teacher as the children came into the classroom after lunch and I heard the "ding" of the macs as they were being turned on. I found it surprising, and amusing, that the children were so comfortable with themselves as learners and tech. users that they would get right to work after lunch without waiting for me to give them any directions (I did actually have a math lesson planned by the way...). You have to remember, these are only second graders! They aren't fooling around - they want to get their work done. And this is THEIR work - not my assignment for them to complete.

With guidance and trust, modeling and support, even the youngest children will embrace learning and leading in their classroom. Keep an eye on them...they're fascinating. And they won't wait for you either!!

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